As elected officials, board members of the Lakes Highway District understand their duty to look out for their voting constituents’ best interest. They recognize that the expenditures they make will be judged for effectiveness and value.
Recently, LHD has completed enhancements to Prairie Avenue, providing an opportunity for the citizens to have an improved commute traveling east and west in the northwest part of the greater Coeur d’Alene community. The hope is that citizens will benefit from a shorter commute and recognize the effort of the LHD board on their behalf. A noble effort recently completed.
But wait, along comes more growth in northwest Coeur d’Alene as new residents and their families join our community during the past few years. For the most part, the same new residents, who so greatly appreciate the improved commute on Prairie Avenue, now find other needs of their elected officials.
A few years ago, the citizens and families of the Coeur d’Alene area recognized another important need from our elected leaders. New homes and neighborhoods created an urgent need for more schools. Existing schools have struggled to keep up with the growth, requiring portable classrooms and the busing of children to areas with less student population pressure.
After a great deal of study by School District 271 and their Long Range Planning team, a bond was proposed and passed by an unprecedented level of support of 78 percent. Of specific note was the need for at least one new elementary school in the northwest part of the school district.
Like LHD, School District 271 followed the direction of their taxpaying supporters and acquired an appropriate piece of property in the northwest region of the school district. They then proceeded with their due diligence of required improvements, including approaching LHD about access to safely pick up and deliver students to the proposed new school.
LHD directed School District 271 that an engineer must be hired and an objective traffic study must be completed. This was done, and the engineer concluded that the appropriate infrastructure required a new traffic signal with proper turn out lanes.
The final step was for LHD to formally approve the required traffic signal at a regularly called board meeting in November. To the surprise of all, at the November meeting LHD tabled the idea for further study. Thus, the community, which desperately needs the new school in northwest Coeur d’Alene 271, is left stranded with no decision and a project that is on hold while the kids in the neighborhoods keep coming.
Lakes Highway District needs to study who their taxpaying master is that they are called to serve. The same community citizens who enjoy the newly refurbished Prairie Avenue are calling for action to meet the needs of housing and educating their children who now reside in northwest Coeur d’Alene.
School District 271 has been consistent in their planning and implementation of where to grow and how to meet the needs of the citizens of their school district. With 78 percent of school district taxpayers supporting the developed plan, it is appropriate that Lakes Highway District comes to the party and participates in the development and safety of an access plan to and from the Prairie site.
Should the school district be forced to build a new school on the Prairie site without a safe traffic controlled intersection, LHD faces severe liability for failing to participate in the recognized needs of the community.
Time is of the essence. It is critical that all our taxing districts work together to solve mutual challenges of growth, and recognize that the needs of the overall community must be paramount.
John Barlow is a Coeur d’Alene resident and retired Hagadone Corp. executive.